Introducing: Chroma Tea

Cheers to something new!

May 15, 2020

Master Zhang advocates collaboration between “tian di ren”

Our long-time partner and award-winning oolong craftsman, Master Zhang, describes tea as tian di ren, or “the sky, the earth, and the people.” This means that tea is a work of collaboration. The same leaves in the same soil will yield different flavors, textures and aromas depending on the weather, and of course, on the craft used to pick and process the tea. To Master Zhang, this means using every sense when he handles the leaves, allowing them to guide him in the direction they want to go, rather than forcing every batch to taste the same.

This idea sticks with us every day – the interconnectedness of tea, the perfect set of circumstances that have to come together for the flavors we taste to exist. Tea is not just itself, it is a “blend” of environmental influences (like the spring water that nourishes it and the biodiversity that surrounds it), along with the choices made in finishing (like whether to hand-fire with hardwood charcoal on bamboo baskets, sun dry, steam, or bake), all yielding wildly different results.

 

In this sense, all teas – even single origin, single family, single plot harvests – are blends.

Decades of thinking of tea as blends in their own right, and trying to parse out how each influencing factor of tian di ren influences the final brew inevitably leads to thinking about blending spices, herbs, rare essential oils, and flowers to continue building up the kind of enveloping texture, aftertaste and aroma that inspires us in tea.

At first, we shared this experimental blending brewing chai and iced tea blends for farmers markets. Later, neighborhood coffee shops asked us for help blending teas to capture moods and feelings for their regulars. In time, our blending projects even brought us to some incredible collaborations doing tea tinctures and infusions for everything from mixology bars as well as beer and kombucha microbreweries.

 

 

For some time, we even shared a handful of our blends on the Verdant Tea website: the old Alchemy Blends like Hibiscus Berry Rose, or Chocolate Chamomile Curiosity Blend.

In time, as we moved to spending more of our year in China, and documenting the work of our partner-farmers, we weren’t sure how to best represent a tea finished by Li Xiangxi or Master Zhang, but then blended by us to show the tea in a different perspective.

As a marketplace for small family farmers,
we realized that we needed to focus on our partners’ work before our own.

 

Yet for years, we’ve wanted to share some of our explorations of taste, texture, and aroma without taking away from what our partners are doing – from wild-foraged ancient tree pu’ers in Qianjiazhai, to brand new processing techniques in Laoshan.

That’s why we’ve decided to bring back blends under a brand new project, separate from Verdant Tea.

 

This project is called Chroma.

 

 

 

 

We have launched Chroma in its own space to give it the room to grow into its own collaborations and dreams.

Chroma Tea is a passion project specifically to share the fun we have playing with flavor, texture, and aroma. Chroma Tea is a place for new partnerships, like highlighting the work we’ve been able to do supplying teas from Master Zhang and Qianjiazhai to Prohibition Kombucha to make true single-origin kombucha, or the way our early blends inspired a botanical line-up of sodas by Tree Fort Soda.

 

 

In time, we plan to continue adding new blends, some put together in close collaboration with our partners in China when using their teas as the base. We are also excited to use Chroma as a space to highlight innovative new everyday teaware – look out for more throughout the year!

We invite you to check out some of the new blends already up, and sign up to hear about new blends and collaborations as they drop over the summer.

Thanks for reading, and cheers to something new!

 

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